UNIVERSITY PARK | Democratic 2nd Congressional District candidate Debbie Halvorson used a forum Thursday at her alma mater to justify being one of the few candidates who does not support a proposed federal ban on assault weapons.
When the 10 Democratic candidates, who were invited by the League of Women Voters to a forum at Governors State University, were asked if they supported an assault weapons ban, hers was the lone hand that did not rise.
And when asked who opposed the concept of banning ammunition magazines capable of holding 10 or more rounds at once, Halvorson and the Rev. Anthony Williams raised their hands.
Halvorson said during the forum the approach being taken by President Barack Obama and supported by many individuals in the wake of violent outbursts at schools focuses on penalizing the wrong people.
“We need a true, honest conversation about violence, and not just guns,” said Halvorson — who is trying to return to Congress following a two-year stint she served through the 2010 elections.
“I refuse to do something that goes after law-abiding citizens,” she said. “If we come up with something that takes the weapons away from criminals, I’d be all for it.”
Halvorson’s willingness to oppose firearms restrictions in a highly urban district has gained her national attention, including nationally produced broadcast spots that tout her past support from the National Rifle Association. Although Halvorson on Thursday said of the ad, “It’s very false.”
Among the other major candidates, all wanted to appear as though they wanted tougher laws against firearms.
“I support common-sense legislation that the country is calling for,” said state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields.
Former state Sen. Robin Kelly, of Matteson, managed to take a dig at the NRA forces that are trying to pressure the Illinois Legislature to pass a measure that allows people to carry concealed pistols.
“Although it’s likely to happen in Illinois, I oppose concealed carry,” she said.
On other issues, Hutchinson said she’d like to see a repeal of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, with extra money put into programs benefiting education and infrastructure, while Williams said he’d like to see a federal lottery to raise money for education programs.
Kelly said she’d like to see cuts in military spending.
“We don’t fight wars like that anymore,” she said of fleets of battleships.
Chicago 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale said he’d like to see cuts in agriculture subsidies that he says pay farmers not to grow crops.
One area where there was general agreement was on immigration reform. All said they support a version of reform that gives many of the roughly 11.1 million people living illegally in the United States a chance to gain U.S. citizenship.
“We need people to realize this is a problem that will not go away,” Hutchinson said.
Kelly said such a reform could ease health care-related problems — because if those individuals gained legal status in this country, they’d be covered under programs benefiting needy people.
Two of the five Republicans on the Feb. 26 ballot — Paul McKinley and Beverly Reid — also had a chance to express their views at the forum.
McKinley included in just about every answer a reference to the “corrupt Chicago Machine” that he said has controlled the Illinois 2nd Congressional district for more than six decades.
When asked about whether he’d support construction of a pipeline from Alaska, through Canada and into the United States that is expected to pass through western Illinois, McKinley said, “I’m convinced that the corruption of the city of Chicago will find a way to divert the pipeline and steal away every dime.”